Life at a startup is full of challenges. How often have you found yourself working on a project with a tight deadline only to reach an impasse because you are missing a critical skill? Perhaps you need to make an urgent decision, but you don’t have enough information, or even worse, you don’t have the experience to know what to do with the data you have. For example, should your call to action (CTA) have a red button, or maybe a green button? Is search engine marketing (SEM) the best way to promote you product or service? Should you use Pecha Kucha as the format for pitch deck? If you don’t have a senior advisor to guide you, your project could be derailed and your professional development stalled.
Don’t worry if you don’t have ready access to advisors because we have assembled the top five ways to connect with leading experts to help you grow your skillset and advance your career.
1. Social Media
The first and quickest way to locate experts is through social media. It is easy to discount career related content on social media, but there is a lot of great, actionable content out there if you know where to look. Thinking of social media networks as channels of information, each having a specialization is a helpful way to classify content.
While Pinterest and Instagram are focused on sharing experiences and aspirational items, other channels such as Twitter and Linkedin are the public face of many startup leaders. When you filter out flames, celebrity gossip and especially politics, Twitter lets you to search for high value keywords like paid acquisition, UX design, fundraising, etc. Simply type in the keyword you are interested in to not only see a list of search results that contain tweets, but even more actionable are the list of people who feature the keyword in their profile.
You can quickly build a target list of expert candidates to network with and who could provide valuable advice to you. Once you have narrowed down the list to a manageable number, you then need to think about how to engage with them. A good hint is where you found the expert!
If they are active on Twitter, think of a straightforward and highly relevant tweet that makes a specific ask. These people are extremely busy and the best way to engage with them is to clearly state your goal and then be prepared to follow up with them several times to get their attention and show the benefit in connecting with you.
2. Websites and blogs
For our second channel, we will look at long form content found on websites and blogs. Social media isn’t the only place online to look for expert advice. Most questions about startups require detailed answers that don’t fit neatly into most social media posts. Instead look for blogs and Q&A sites that specialize in your area of interest. These are great places to find industry veterans who are often willing to help. A good indication of this is that they have already been regularly publishing content online.
To surface this content, start by compiling a list of relevant keywords for the content you are interested in. The next step is to conduct a keyword search that relates to the subject. This will typically result in several relevant
sites or blogs on your topic. Depending on how specialized your question is, you should be able to find at least one expert who has written on the subject in detail. Most blogs will have a contact form where you can send the expert a message, or you can engage with them by commenting on one of their blog posts.
Additionally, there are numerous specialized Q&A sites, such as Quora where industry veterans freely offer their advice, and all you have to do is post a question. Typically the content that is posted is fairly high quality as the site communities will flag low quality or inappropriate content.
3. The right apps
Coming in at number three on our list is apps. Busy schedules and the always on startup business cycle make apps a must have for discovering and engaging with thought leaders. Today social media activity is dominated by mobile app users. Similarly, content discovery and search on mobile passed the tipping point with desktop a few years ago and shows no signs of slowing down.
At Promeets, we have developed a seamless app experience that makes the search for expert advice highly relevant and hassle free. Users can search by expertise or category through an easy to navigate interface that reduces friction between finding and engaging with an expert. Not only is it quick and easy to find an expert, but with Promeets you can request an one on one meeting to build a lasting connection. Once you have connected through the app, you can quickly schedule a time and place for the meeting.
At number four on our list is meetups. If you aren’t familiar with meetups, it is one of easiest ways to quickly build your network through in person events. From their app you can find loads of meetups in the Bay Area each week.
Because there are so many and they are so popular, you can probably find a specific meetup for just about every startup topic. Look for meetups that focus on the topics you’re interested in so that you make the most of the events. You can start to build relationships with domain experts who are willing to share their experiences and advice with you. Just be aware that at most meetups the number of participants looking for advice outnumber the experts, so be prepared to network with peers while you wait to speak to a startup guru.
5. Word of mouth
Coming in at number five on our list is word of mouth (WOM), is a great way to find expertise that leverages your network and the personal connections you have already established…Word of mouth has the advantage that your network pre screens the experts for you. They are more likely to recommend you to experts who have helped them out in the past, and won’t refer you to people they had a not so positive experience with. Don’t forget that our ProMeets app also allows users to rate experts so you can help extend the WOM concept to our community.